Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Eclipse Nerd

Late night at work tonight, not likely to get to my Hangar B trip report tonight. In lieu of that, here is a picture a co-worker took of me using my handy-dandy mailing-label-and-sketchbook pinhole projector to view the eclipse.

The glasses are definitely better. 

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(kayak smiley, patent pending)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipsin' NYC!

Goofy eclipse selfie after a co-worker loaned me her Warby Parker freebie glasses when she went back to her desk. 

Today's planned trip report for the Floyd Bennett Field Hangar B Ranger Tour paddle I led on Sunday is being postponed in favor of jumping in on today's US eclipse fever. I couldn't make it to anywhere with totality, or even to one of the official viewing events that were going on here and there in the city, but I did make sure I went downstairs to see it.

I first saw it through handy-dandy pinhole projector made from a large mailing label projecting on a sketchbook (kindly demonstrated for the photos by a gentleman who saw me trying to balance the sketchbook on a ledge at the right angle so to free up one hand to take the picture), then through a pair of the Warby Parker freebie eclipse glasses that a co-worker loaned me when she went back in to work. The glasses are actually really cool, I will get my own pair before 2024.

It was quite the event at Scholastic, Mrs. Frizzle would've been proud of us as the entire office emptied out onto Broadway starting around 2:30 to view the maximum coverage at 2:44, using every variety of viewer out there - we had the glasses, the box viewers, and the simple two sheets of paper. No colanders, but pretty much everything else. I got some fun pictures of folks using their various devices, and then, in an unexpected bonus, the cloud cover was JUST thick enough at certain points to act as a filter allowing photos to be taken actually the moon covering 72% of the sun. VERY neat! I'd thrown my camera in my bag as sort of an afterthought this morning but hadn't made any provisions for actual solar photos, thinking more that eclipse-watchers in the streets of NYC might offer some interesting pictures. You can see how that worked out below - as usual, click on any picture for a slideshow view.

Interesting thing was that it was noticeably gloomy, but not as dark as I thought 72% coverage would have made it. I'm glad I was able to get out there for this event. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Perfect Day at Coney Island - Yoga, A Swim, and a Sand Castle Contest

Swimming selfie with parachute jump

And what a perfect summer day I had at Coney Island today. Started with yoga on the beach led by one of the CIBBOWS members, followed that with a swim that was just a hair short of a mile (unfortunately had some foot cramp problems but was able to work through them), then enjoyed a little time hanging out by Grimaldo's Chair (Click here to read a very good article about the lifeguard after whom the chair is named - sad story but there's a lot of love there) catching up with some of my swimmer friends.

After that I headed down the beach to check out the sandcastle contest; that ran from 12 to 4 and a lot of the builders were just getting started, but there was some neat stuff going on already.

Pictures below - starts with yoga, then a few photos of the clinics that CIBBOWS was running today, then a mysterious bunch of bananas that was floating around (actually there was a whole fruit salad out there, bananas, a pear, a strawberry, some sugar cane) - maybe if I'd eaten one my foot cramps would've been better. Should've drunk more water before I started, too.

Finishes with my walk down the beach and some of the sandcastles and other sand sculptures that were being created. Pretty cool stuff, next year I'll know to go later when people are closer to done, I'd had enough sun by this point and was ready to head home, but what was there so far was pretty neat.

Finished my Coney Island day with a couple of corndogs - one of my biggest junk food weaknesses! - and a small lemonade at Nathan's. I'm only a little bit sunburned, I think I'll sleep well and I'm looking forward to tomorrow's fun!

As usual, click on any photo for a slideshow view. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

A Few More Road Trip Pix

1. Obligatory start-of-the-road-trip shot in the loading area at Sebago. Yay! As usual, click on any photo for a larger view.

2. I've taken to reserving an "Intermediate" when I'm planning on cartopping my boat, as the roofs on the smaller ones are a little on the flimsy side. There was one trip where there was an indentation left after I took my boat off the roof at the end of the trip - I was able to pop it out by getting in the back seat and pushing up on the roof with my feet, but after that trip I decided that the few extra bucks for a sturdier car would be money well spent. I was a bit horrified this time when the agent walked me out to the parking lot, pointed to the Kia Soul, and said "That's yours", I'd actually been looking at in on the way in and thinking "If that's mine I don't know how I'm gonna get my boat on top of it". I can generally wrestle my heavy kayak up onto the roof of a normal car but this one was tall enough that I wasn't seeing how I was going to make it happen on my own. You can't really tell the agent that you want a shorter car because you need to stick a kayak on the roof. I don't think they want to know about that. Thanks to Derek O for taking this photo so you can see how tall the car is!

Fortunately there was a clubmate at the club when I got there and more turned up later (I was missing a Lake Sebago and Hudson River weekend that had been planned long after I'd committed to Women Swimmin') so I had help, and then of course I wasn't worried about the Ithaca end 'cause there's always plenty of help for loading after the event.  

3. Silly thing I liked about the car: If you add an 'okina (represented by a ' and pronounced as a glottal stop) between the e's you have the Hawaiian word for octopus, so I decided that ka he'e was the car's name for the weekend. I hope Trusty Romany wasn't too jealous, that boat and I have been an item for well over a decade now and it still doesn't have a name.

A couple more mildly entertaining notes about the car:

I was telling the friends I was sitting with at the free concert by the lake on Saturday night about my concern when I first saw it, and I mentioned it was a Kia Soul, and one of them said "Oh yeah, that's the one that looks like a freezer on wheels, right?" and I cracked up. Yep, that's the one.

And then this week I'd posted a picture of the car with the boat on top in the Delaware Water Gap, and one of my friends said it looked like a good yak wagon, lots of cargo space, and I said, "Not as much as you might think, I had crap all over the back seat" and she said, "You put the back seats DOWN". HA! I am SO not a driver, the thought hadn't even occurred to me. Next time then!

4. Another thing that made it the perfect summer weekend: First sweet corn and caprese salad dinner of the summer. What with one thing and another, I hadn't made it to a greenmarket since long before the corn would've started appearing, but I got into Ithaca early enough to go drop off my boat, and as I was headed to the Ithaca yacht club I passed the GreenStar, my friend Louise's favorite local organic grocery. A ha! I didn't have time to stop then as I needed to lose the boat and be back for a 6:00 meeting, but the store was still open afterwards and YES! they had local sweet corn and tomatoes. The tomatoes were gorgeous, I picked a great big lumpy green and red one that turned out to be soooo sweet and flavorsome; the corn was pretty picked over and the ears that were left were rather measly little specimens, but they turned out to be sweet and tender and much more delicious than I'd expected. Louise had the requisite butter and oil and vinegar around and my only regret was that I hadn't thought to grab some basil from my garden (which isn't having the best year, but the basil is the exception). Delicious even without the fresh basil, though.

5. Taughannock Falls. This is the waterfall I stopped to grab some pictures of when the clouds seemed to be rolling in and I'd thrown in the towel on the thought of going swimming in favor of going napping. The overlook is right on the way back to Louise's place so a stop was quick and convenient. Also had a nice time checking out a fossils-of-Ithaca table that a young lady with the parks department was overseeing - fossil collecting had been a hobby of hers for a while and she was quite happy to have gotten a summer job sharing it. Good stop! There are a couple of really nice hikes here too but at this point I was very focused on naptime. 

6. Valley View Farm Stand: I always stop here on the way home for summer staples -- tomatoes and peaches and corn, oh my. Plus some honey or jam or whatever else looks appealing for a more long-lasting treat. It's always further from Ithaca than I think it is and I'll always be getting nervous at some point thinking that somehow I missed it, but I never have. One of these years I'll start to trust myself more. 

7. Nice old barn near the town of Whitney Point. It catches my eye every time I'm driving out to Ithaca. This year I started back to Brooklyn earlier than in the past, Louise and I have generally done something fun on Sunday morning on past trips but the drive to Ithaca goes through some really lovely countryside and being on my own this time, I thought it would be great to start back earlier and do a little sightseeing on my way home. This was my second stop, it's a neat-looking old barn but appears long abandoned, and looks like it doesn't need more than a few more good storms before it goes down. I haven't gone past it once without thinking "I gotta take a picture of that before it goes" and this was the perfect chance to do that.

8. Roadside bar-b-q: I'd noticed this on the way to Ithaca, it looked so promising with all the big smokers out in front, so when I passed it on the way home I stopped to grab some bbq for lunch. I got their smoked brisket, it didn't come with sauce, I didn't ask for sauce, it didn't need sauce. Delicious. Although the scenery in which I ate it may have helped...

9. Delaware Water Gap: This was my last stop on the way home. The Delaware Water Gap is always the one particular part of the drive where I'm wishing I could just stop and visit for a while, it's so pretty. At one point I'd been sniffing around on the internet looking for paddling possibilities, found plenty but decided that might be overly ambitious and decided to settle for maybe a hike instead; unfortunately there was construction-caused traffic before this so by the time I got here I didn't have the time for poking around that I'd hoped to. I have to admit that this is where the smartphone I don't have might have come in handy, or at least a little more pre-trip research - as it was I followed road signs and ended up at the PA visitor center in East Stroudsburg, which wasn't on the river at all; I looked at a big map they had there that showed a loop trail by the river, decided to go find that, drove to where I thought it was to find sort of an industrial parking area, drove around the town a little more (attractive little town), saw a couple of outfitters where I could've made inquiries if it had been a little earlier (noted for another time). 

I finally threw in the towel on this particular search for a chance to spend at least a little time by the river and got back on the highway - too bad I hadn't done that to begin with because very soon after the town, the road met up with the river and there was an off-ramp to the Kittatiny Point Visitor's Center, which was exactly the sort of right-on-the-river visitor center in a park with picnic tables and people playing in the river that I'd been hoping to find in the first place. Didn't have time to hike at this point but I did decide that since I'd found it, I would take an early dinner break here - brisket, a peach, and the last of the fresh mozzarella, as the paddlers went drifting by and the late afternoon sun sparkled on the water. Wish I'd had more time but at least I got that much, which was very pleasant and I do have a better sense of things for another time. Beautiful area, with the highway so close there's street noise that means it's not quite as bucolic as the pictures might seem, but it does make a great weekend destination for city folks. Glad to get a little visit there. 

And that was pretty much it for summertastic weekend one - the rest of the drive home was uneventful and I was home at a semi-decent hour.

Hoping for another fun weekend this weekend, closer to home this time! 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

8/12/2017 A Surprisingly Splendid Women Swimmin'

Finally a weekend with a taste of the summer I'd been hoping to have, during my annual trip to Ithaca to help out with the wonderful Women Swimmin' for Hospicare fundraising event. My amazing Antarctic kayak guide friend Louise  first introduced me to this event back in 2013, asking me if I might be interested in coming to help out as part of the Kayak Safety Team, a group of skilled paddlers who line the course and keep an eye on things, helping out with things like matching up swimmers who turn out to swim at a different pace as the rest of their "pod" (small groups of swimmers who set out with a absolute minimum of two escort paddlers, generally more) with a group that they can stay with better, providing a brief respite for a tired swimmer, and the like. I enjoyed it so much the first time that I've made an annual thing out of it, even last year - no, ESPECIALLY last year when I myself was just coming out of being treated (succesfully so far!) for breast cancer.

The best year was probably 2014, when instead of driving back to Brooklyn, I drove to Waterford, dropped off my boat and camping gear on the Erie Canal, ditched my rental car with Enterprise in Albany, took a cab back to my boat and then paddled home to Brooklyn. I don't really do that bucket list thing but a solo trip down the Hudson River Water Trail had been a pipe dream of mine ever since I'd read a book by a professional adventure-travel guy who did a solo paddle the length of the Hudson, but didn't really like either the Hudson or paddling by himself. 2014 the workload, the currents (the Hudson is tidal so that's key), and the date of Women Swimmin' all came together perfectly, and boy was that a wonderful way to get home. Last year was also pretty special, being my own year of surviving cancer.

This year, Louise was out of town the weekend of the swim, but she made arrangements for me to stay at her place, and that worked out fine. I made my plans to take my usual 3-day weekend, and reserved a car, and scrambled to finish the massive licensor forecast that was due on the 15th, and packed my bag, but as I mentioned in my last post, with one thing and another, this summer hasn't been quite the summer I'd hoped for, and in the last few days before the  weekend, it was looking like my much-anticipated Women Swimmin' weekend had a good chance of following that trend.

In addition to paddling for the event, which is a fun, non-competitive 1.2 mile swim across Cayuga Lake, I'd been especially dreaming of swimming myself at this beautiful spot at the north end of Taughannock State Park, where you can swim along a cliff and past a waterfall, and during the late nights at work finishing up the forecast, I kept picturing myself swimming there and that kept me going.

But then I started looking at the forecast, and it was terrible - all rain and thunderstorms all weekend - and then I looked at the Women Swimmin' site one morning and noticed a "Blue-Green Algae Update" button and when I hit that I found out that Cayuga had been having a blue-green algae problem this summer, beaches had been closed, and that the swim would be called off on the morning of the 12th if an early-morning inspection of the course revealed any signs of the stuff.

I wouldn't have thought of backing out at that point, I'd promised I would be there, but I was worried. Trying to make the best of it, I packed up a couple of books and some art supplies; earlier in the spring, a friend at work had given me some watercolor crayons that I haven't had a chance to try out yet and a rainy Saturday afternoon in Ithaca seemed like a perfect chance to try that, and I also figured that if it was still raining on Sunday I would just head home in the morning and have a quiet Sunday evening at home.

So how did it all work out?

Surprisingly well!

The blue-green algae hadn't been seen much in the south end of the lake; some friendly Cornell science folks had been keeping an eye on things for the event, and their morning check revealed fine clear water for the swim, and as a matter of fact the need for that check meant participants got to sleep in a bit (usually we're arriving while it's still dark, but they needed daylight to make sure the course was clear so our time to meet on the water for our pre-swim talk was a relatively civilized 6:30 a.m.), and then the thunderstorms and rain that were predicted went elsewhere. The weather during the swim was just beautiful, and then some clouds moved in towards the end of the post-swim festivities; I'd been thinking of going to do my own swim right after the event, but when the clouds came in I figured this was the leading edge of the bad weather and gave in to a sudden desire to go back to Louise's for a nap, only stopping at the Taughannock Falls Overlook for a few pictures of the falls.

At this point, Sunday morning was looking like it was supposed to be nicer so I figured I would swim then, but then when I woke up it was beautiful again, so I threw on a swimsuit and grabbed my goggles and headed back to the lake, where I ignored the "beach closed for blue-green algae" signs (this beach was not far from the event course so I figured if one was OK the other probably was too, and the water looked fine) and went for the exact swim I'd been daydreaming about all week (even better, in fact, I'd forgotten about the waterfall).

And there was a perfect finish to the day, too, one of the other Kayak Safety Team folks had told me that there was a free concert in the park that night and that he and his wife and some friends of theirs were going and that I was welcome to join them if I wanted to. I'd originally had some vague plans about having dinner at a nice farm-to-table restaurant in Trumansburg that I'd found on the internet, but with the weather having totally relented and an afternoon swim having worked out so nicely, I put that on the back burner for another trip, picked up a chicken spiedie sub ("spiedies" are a regional specialty and I'd never tried them before, quite tasty), and headed back to the park for some good music from The Pelotones.

Really couldn't have asked for a much nicer day. BTW, I'm kind of the worst fundraiser in the world, I mostly donate my skills for this event, but every boater in the event does get a donor page, and if you were inclined to donate a little something to this good cause, here's mine, late donations are accepted!

Here are some pictures from the swim, which at last report (via email, the website hasn't quite caught up yet) has raised $408K for Hospicare of Tompkins County. As usual, click on any photo for a slideshow view. I don't have any mobile devices and I go mostly incommunicado when I travel, so I didn't hear about the terrible things that happened on the same day until I got home on Sunday, but I'm glad to have been part of something so solidly good that day.